It’s been hot. Very hot. I guess that’s summer for you though, right? But the heat and humidity over the last several weeks—the great heatwave—has been intense. Monday and Tuesday were the first days I’ve seen temperatures in the 70’s in I don’t know how long. My canna and (ornamental) sweet potato vines have been loving it, but I’m afraid they stand alone on that—if you ask me anyway.
Finding something to eat in this weather can be a struggle. I mean this in the truest sense of first-world problems—there’s not a scarcity or famine by any means, so I still count ourselves lucky—but thinking and cooking up something crave-able has been a chore. The thought of pulling the grill out makes me tired and sweat. It’s summer, but the idea alone of eating something heavy and hot seems to make the air thicker and sun rays more intense than they already are. I just want to sit in front of the air vent and eat lemon sorbet until the leaves start to fall from the trees.
But one cannot live on lemon sorbet alone… Or so I’m told. And I still need something filling enough to reenergize me, and something to make to keep me sane. This is where my Shrimp Cake Salad with Lime Dressing comes in. There is some actual cooking involved—Fire + Food—but being that we’re talking shrimp, you know it’s minimal. It’s minimal cooking time serves a dual purpose, too; you’re standing in front of a hot pan for a short amount of time, which means you and your house don’t heat up as much, and because it takes hardly any time at all to both prep and cook you don’t need to muster up much energy to convince yourself to actually cook dinner (i.e. you’re not contemplating to just say “screw it” by calling those burgers you were going to make “beef tartar” in favor of not starting a grill and turning on the stove). Can you tell I don’t do well in the heat?
Making shrimp cakes, to me, is not that different than making CRAB CAKES; they should be mostly shrimp, with only enough “filler” to hold them together, here the “filler” being a bit of panko bread crumbs. The shrimp gets pulverized the processor. I do this by throwing half in and pulsing it to rough chunks before adding the rest in and pulsing some more; this way, the first half of shrimp is ground finely while the second stays chunky. Flavoring it with lime zest, red chili, cilantro and green onion give it a bright zing that the gentle, almost sweet, shrimp meat craves.
I scoop them into little balls, and chill them a bit before rolling them in panko and pressing them into little patties. Frying them in the thinnest layer of oil makes them crisp on the outside and tender within; the perfect contrast to crisp and tender baby greens, soft and green chunks of avocado, and a punchy dressing.
The dressing itself is much the same as the flavors in the cakes; lime zest and juice, a bit of fish sauce, cilantro, and chilies. The whole dish is filling enough to sustain you, but bright and lively enough to not weigh you down, and for me the flavors of lime, cilantro and chili—especially with seafood—is part of the summer canon.
So beat the heat with this fresh and summery salad. Or, at the very least, forget about it for a little while.
And while your snacking on shrimp cakes in front of the air vent, make sure to follow me on BLOGLOVIN’!
|Cook Time||Passive Time|
|5 minutes||15 - 20 minutes|
- 1 pound raw shrimp peeled, deveined and tails removed
- 8 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs divided
- 1 red chili minced
- 4 white bottoms ONLY green onions (reserve greens for below)
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced cilantro
- 1/4 t-spoon lime zest
- 1 t-spoons fish sauce
- A few pinches kosher salt
- vegetable oil or cooking spray for frying
- Approx. 6 - 8 cups salad leaves such as spring mix, or baby asian lettuce leaves
- 4 green top parts from green onions
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves whole
- 2 ripe avocados (Haas)
- 6 tablespoons lime juice freshly squeezed
- 1 t-spoon fish sauce
- 1/4 t-spoon lime zest
- 1 red chili minced
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- A few pinches kosher salt
- Start by making the shrimp cakes: mince the white bottoms from the green onions very finely and add them to a large mixing bowl with the minced chili, lime zest, fish sauce, and a bit of salt. Set aside.
- Throw half of the shrimp into a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up into chunks, roughly cutting them into thirds (about 5-6 pulses). Add the remaining shrimp to the processor and pulse a few more times—say about 8—so that the first batch of shrimp is finely minced, verging on a paste, and the second is still pretty chunky.
- Tip the processed shrimp into the mixing bowl, and sprinkle over 4 tablespoons of the panko. Gently mix to combine either by hand or with a fork, taking care not to overwork the mix—that'll make your cakes tough.
- Line a plate with plastic wrap. With either your hands or a small scoop (3/4oz) make up 16 little shrimp meatballs, about 1 – 1 ½ tablespoons in size (or you can make 12 slightly larger ones). Cover this with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 15 – 20 minutes, or up to 12 hours. This will help them set and firm up a bit.
- Make the dressing by whisking everything, sans oil, together in a small bowl. Gradually drizzle in the oil, whisking all the while, until emulsified. Set in the fridge for now. (See note regarding make-ahead)
- Arrange the mixed leaves on individual plates or a large platter and scatter with the ½ cup of cilantro leaves and thinly sliced greens from the scallions, sliced on a bias for aesthetics.
- When the time comes to fry the shrimp cakes, heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a large, preferably non-stick, skillet—about a tablespoon or two for a 12" pan. Actually, cooking spray works very well with these, too. The point here is not to deep-fry them, or even shallow fry – what you want is to treat these almost like little shrimpy burgers.
- Anyway… Put the remaining breadcrumbs on a plate and roll a few of the shrimp balls in the crumbs until they’re coated. Press down on them to from a cake and add to the pan. I find it much easier to roll them in the crumbs and then press rather than pressing them out into patties and then coating – this way none of the shrimp mixture sticks to your fingers or palms (or at least not as much does).
- Fry the cakes in the oil, in batches, on one side for just 2 minutes before flipping and cooking only an additional 1 – 2 minutes. They should be golden on both sides. Remove to a wire cooling wrack while you fry the rest.
- Top the salads with the cakes and the avocado, either sliced into fans, cut into chunks or scooped with a spoon (at the last minute to retain their color) and drizzle the whole thing with the dressing just before serving.
- Freeze the shells and tails from the shrimp to make shrimp stock later.
- With regards to processing the shrimp, you want some of them broken down quite fine, almost to a paste, but a lot of pretty good-sized chunks in there, still. If you go as far as to puree them your cakes will be gummy but if they’re too coarsely chopped the cakes will never stick together. It’s not an exact science. Just be sure to not puree it completely and you’ll be fine.
- MAKING THE DRESSING AHEAD: If you’re going to make the dressing in advance at all, either hold back the minced cilantro or mix it into the vegetable oil in a separate bowl before whisking it into the lime juice base to keep it from discoloring. The latter will delay the discoloring by at least a few hours, but if you want to make it in advance any more than that just wait to add the cilantro in.